Relegated in his first season as a Newcastle Falcon and promoted in his second, Jamie Helleur is gradually getting use to life on an even keel.
The Samoan international was his customary solid self in Tuesday’s pre-season opener against Bath, shoring up the midfield in a sun-drenched 21-21 draw in the French town of Beziers.
Now back in an Aviva Premiership not renowned for accepting passengers, Helleur reckons the Falcons have the foundations in place to build a stronger wall at the second time of asking.
He said: “We have a great squad this year and we have really brought in some good players. I am confident we can do something and probably surprise a few people.”
Elaborating on his point, the former Auckland man added: “What the new guys have brought, in a lot of cases, is experience.
“They have a lot of game-time between them and in the past we have gone with a lot of young fellas who have been yet-to-be blooded. The new lads have been a great influence and they have added something different. There are guys from Scotland and all over, it is a nice mixture.”
Having renewed his contract over the summer, Helleur proclaimed: “Yeah, I am in a really good place at the moment.
“There is a lot of excitement about this season and after two years at Newcastle now it is a place that I love – even if it is frozen for half the time!
“I am just happy here. I know the guys, I enjoy the coaching and we are building week by week towards the start of what everybody knows is a massive season for the club.”
Heading into an unforgiving Premiership season, graft and togetherness are both themes which will resonate, although the Falcons do at least carry the momentum of May’s victorious Championship final.
Helleur said: “I had a relegation in my first season and won a title in my second, so I have seen both sides and know which I prefer.
“There is always that element of surprise about what is going to come in terms of the new season and both the Premiership and Championship are tough competitions.
“They are hard, week in and week out, and the thing they have in common is that you can’t drop off any week or someone will make you pay for it.
“We know exactly what to expect. It will be tough games all year long, whether it be the Amlin Challenge Cup or domestic stuff, and we have just got to keep our heads down.”
Showing plenty of promise against Bath, whom they face again on September 6 in the league opener, the centre added: “It was a brilliant first hit-out and I thought both teams did well.
“We are so used to pre-season games being really messy, but Tuesday was a real step up from that. We controlled most of the game and it was awesome. There was more flow than you would typically get at this time of year and it was two strong sets of players when you look at the squad lists.
“We all had a point to prove and a lot of things to work on, so when it came to motivation we were not lacking in the slightest. There was no drop-off in standards and that was so important for us.”
Now back in more temperate conditions, Helleur said: “Our time in Beziers, if I had to sum it up in one word, then ‘hot’ would be one I would choose!
“Not that I mind a bit of heat, but it was a good trip and we achieved a decent result against a Bath side capable of being right up there with the best this season.”